Poaching of African Elephants
The entire civilized world is up in arms against the poaching of the helpless African elephant considered an endangered species. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is one of the progressive steps taken towards arresting of this serious crime. Under the CITES regulations trading of ivory is internationally banned and condemned.
Tens of thousands of African elephants are being killed annually by poachers because of the high demand for Ivory worldwide. CITES believes that ‘destroying of seized ivory is a signal of the signatories to the CITES, to enhance law enforcement against illegal ivory trade, that will support international action against elephant poaching.’
The CITES further believes that the transparency in destruction of seized ivory makes an important public statement and thus it is the best practice to streamline the intended robust ivory stock management system.
The CITES considers that when a country takes a decision to publicly destroy its confiscated ivory stockpiles, it presents a unique opportunity to draw public attention to the scale, nature and impact of this serious crime and to let it act as a deterrent to the illegal trade.
The exception permitted under the Resolution [Conf. 9.10 (Rev. CoP 15)], adopted by CITES in 1994, and updated in 2010 is the bona fide use of ivory specimens for scientific, educational and identification purposes only.
A Sri Lankan Experience
Sri Lanka Customs on 14th May 2012 seized a stockpile of African ivory valued over US $3 million, which was being smuggled out from Kenya and was on its way to the international market through Dubai via the Port of Colombo. The Customs after a formal inquiry (Case No: CINT/HQB/022/2012/CCR/2197) confiscated the entire shipment, pending destruction of the ivory in public as per the international law.
Thereafter however, an unusual turn of events took place with the intervention of the Presidential Secretariat expressing interest in the appropriation of the confiscated ivory, stopping the destruction of the ivory as per CITES Regulations.
On 19th Dec 2012 there was a written directive from the President’s Office to the Customs to handover the confiscated ivory to the Presidential Secretariat. However, an unexpected media exposure on the whole issue compelled the authorities to suspend the intended unlawful action.
CITES Bangkok Conference
In the meantime at the CITES Conference on Combatting of Wild Life Crime and Upholding of Rule of Law held in Bangkok from 10 – 12 of March 2013, this illegal attempt was questioned by Dr Kala Malqueeny, the Principal Counsel for the General Council of the CITES, bringing dishonor to the country in the eyes of the international community. Yet, the Sri Lankan representative to the conference, Ms Rohini Marasinghe, (a Judge in the Court of Appeal) vehemently denied the accusations claiming that it was baseless and manifestly unfounded.
Government should stop suicidal actions that bring dishonor to the country
The Government at least now should stop deceiving the people of Sri Lanka at will. It should learn proper lessons from distasteful actions of this nature and should take initiatives to safeguard the good name of the country here and abroad.
The need to adhere to CITES regulations
It is now over two years since the seizure of the stockpile of ivory and over one and half years from the CITES Conference held in Bangkok. This makes any independent observer conclude that the authorities are waiting till the time is ripe for another attempt on the ivory.
Therefore the government should let the Customs act as required by law in respect of the confiscated stock of ivory without further interfering with this international issue.